New Mini and Fiat 500 Go Head-to-Head

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Bloomberg News - March 24, 2013

BMW thought it had the niche tiny car seg­ment all sewed up in the U.S., after 12 years of MINIs on the mar­ket, but along comes com­pe­ti­tion from Italy.

Meet the new MINI Pace­man aimed at coun­ter­ing the threat.

A dozen years after invent­ing the nostalgia-hip seg­ment of the car mar­ket, Bay­erische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s MINI is find­ing itself increas­ingly squeezed by Fiat’s zippy lit­tle 500. Now, the Ger­mans are push­ing back with the Pace­man, a two-door crossover coupe designed to keep the brand top of mind among young urban buyers.

Based on the Coun­try­man, a four-door com­pact sport-utility vehi­cle, the Pace­man was redesigned with a lower roofline and hor­i­zon­tal back lights to give it a broader and sportier look but retain the lines of an SUV. The car, avail­able in Europe since March 16 and in the U.S. soon, starts at $23,900 in the Amer­i­can mar­ket — MINI’s most expen­sive offering.

The Pace­man, IHS pre­dicts, will sell 20,000 — not huge, but enough to keep the over­all brand from shrink­ing as cus­tomers await the new gen­er­a­tion. With the new mod­els com­ing on line, IHS expects MINI sales to top 400,000 in 2017.

The Pace­man is arriv­ing as sales of Fiat’s 500 have picked up. The squat com­pact, based on the 1960s clas­sic fea­tured in movies such as La Dolce Vita and Roman Hol­i­day, sold 237,000 last year as U.S. deliv­er­ies more than doubled.

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